I’m now onto my third project with Sew-in-Brighton (in Hove Actually) ….Having already accomplished a 1940s style tailor-made dress from just a picture, and a converted kimono jacket, it was time to press on with my next (ad)venture - making a facsimile of my favourite Monsoon velvet devore tunic top. I learned so many tips along the way, I've shared them below with you.In the first lesson, in order to create an accurate pattern, I was instructed to fold my tunic in half lengthways and pin it out onto cross and spot paper.
This proved to be tricky with the slippery fabric but lots of pins close to the edge helped to secure it in place ready for drawing round the shape.This procedure was then repeated with the other side of the garment and the sleeves.Cutting out my new slippery crepe fabric was really difficult so I was advised by Kat, the teacher, to use lots of pins close together to help hold the shape - a very helpful hint!Prior to sewing the garment together, the neckline was machine stitched to prevent the fabric from stretching.On the original tunic the seams were first sewn together and then overlocked, so this procedure was adopted for the new garment, thereby providing a neat, fray-free finish.I then secured the neckline with matching bias binding to create a neat finish.The hemline of the garment was marked out by Kat with the use of a practical device which delineated the bottom line of the hem measured from the floor in chalk.I decided to hem the bottom of the tunic and sleeves by hand.The finished article looked wonderful. But the crepe fabric I had chosen, had more give in it the dezore fabric of the original garment, so it felt slightly roomier. The neckline had stretched slightly when I put the binding on and we remedied this by making a coupld of tucks at the front which actually looked great and even improved the design.Kat recommended if I were to make it again to use fusable or sew-in stay tape before applying the binding to stop the neckline stretching at all. Not all fabrics need this apparently, stay-stitching is often enough but I had picked a fabric with a lot of give in it.All of these things have added a new learning curve to my skills and i'm pleased with my new top. I'm delighted to have the pattern so I can make some more at home.You can also learn these skills in our 1 day workshop - Replicate Your Clothes.View more info/book hereContact us here with any questions!
We sat down with our lovely teacher Laura to find out what she likes to sew plus a few sneaky tips...
Laura has been teaching at Sew In Brighton for many years - a whole range of courses including Patchwork & Quilting, Replicate Your Clothes, Applique & Free Machine Embroidery plus general sewing & dressmaking in our Stitch Classes. We love Laura for her warmth, humour, kindness & care she takes of each & every student (and us at Sew In Brighton!)
What do you enjoy most about teaching sewing at Sew In Brighton?
What's your favourite sewing technique or skill either to teach or to do yourself?
I think free machine embroidery is really fun and usually when students learn how to do it they get really into it, which is lovely!
Do you have one sewing tip to share that you think really speeds up or revolutionises people's sewing in some way?
I'd say choose the best fabric you can afford. Feel the fabric before you buy it. In the fabric shop unroll a bit and see what it looks like from a distance and even hold it in front of a mirror. It's all about the fabric for me.
What sort of things do you sew yourself, either for you or to sell?
When I have time to sew for myself I like making clothes and altering bargain finds from charity shops. I also make bags and small accessories from recycled fabrics which I sell through Appendage in Kensington Gardens.
What's the most amazing/your favourite thing you ever made and why?
I have a turquoise silk velvet coat that was a really tricky fabric to sew but it makes me happy every time I wear it!
What was the first thing you ever sewed in your life and how long ago was it?
Well, in 1972 I was 12 and my Mum helped me make a pair of corduroy flares. Really flared!
What are you making next for yourself?
My wardrobe is missing a red dress. Why don't I have one? Maybe that is next.
What is your wish for students who come to your classes? Either for their experience at Sew In Brighton or in their future.
Most importantly I hope they have fun and enjoy the experience. Secondly I hope they feel inspired and more confident to carry on sewing at home.
Check out her designs on Instagram: @one.off.brighton
Boiled wool is our favourite trend for Autumn! The amazing thing about this fabric is you can cut and leave the edge and it won't fray. We've used it here to make our easy to sew Coatigan for our new workshop. This is a throw-it-over-anything garment that's so versatile to wear, you'll want to live in it all season!We've tried and tested this wonderful, warm and luxurious 100% pure boiled wool knit. It's available online from Stitch Fabrics in a variety of colours - navy / rose pink / lime, grey marl / tan & other colours! £20/m......We also love this on-trend animal print wool mix coating fabric, from local fabric superstars Fabric Godmother which you can also leave raw-edged for a coatigan. Perfect for sassy winter warmth! £24/m.....Alternative Fabric: SweatshirtingThis is another super trendy & cosy fabric option for making a coatigan. These are our favourite!...
1) On a Budget Fluffy fleecy backed sweatshirting (100% polyester) from Fabric Land in Brighton. A great way to test out this project on a budget before remaking in a more expensive cloth. £5.69/m
2) Winter Luxury Fur plush back sweatshirting online from London based Ray-Stitch. SIB owner Kat REALLY wants to make a coatigan in this stunning fabric! £20/m
3) Go Green Organic cotton fleece back sweatshirting from Organic Textile Company's online shop. It comes in a variety of colours and is VERY wide, meaning it will cost you less in fabric to make a garment from it. From £10/m
I wanted to recreate the style of the dress in the picture on the right but wasn't sure where to start. I've done a bit of sewing before in the past but that was many years ago and I wanted to do something creative again. I love the 1940's style and it's hard to find vintage garments in my size, so making my own clothes was the perfect solution!
I started my project in January 2018. I came to the first lesson with Kat in Sew In Brighton's Weekly Stitch Classes in Hove with just a picture of what I wanted to make - a 1940s style day dress with a side button detail (that you see in the illustration above on the right), some calico - and lots of trepidation! I was made very welcome and first day nerves were soon dissipated in the friendly, cosy atmosphere of the Sewing Lounge.
Stage 1 - 21/03/2018
I have been wanting to make my own wrap dress for a while now and with spring/summer approaching I thought there’s no better time than now. I have chosen dress style C from the Butterick B5030 Pattern. After looking at few patterns, this one appealed to me the most as it has six different versions of the dress which gives the flexibility to cater to different styles. In particular, dress C was the closest to what I was after.
I decided not to cut the pattern supplied directly as I wanted the option to make the different versions/sizes in the future. So I measured my waist, bust, high bust and nape to waist before selecting my pattern size. I then compared my measurements to the pattern and chose the appropriate sizing. After tracing and cutting the pattern I did a tissue fitting with help from Kat. A few adjustments later and it’s now ready for fabric cutting!
Leigh-anne has been coming to classes for exactly a year today, and has now secured a job at Alma's Alterations in Brighton, congratulations! She also has an Instagram feed showing her sewing journey @madebylaluk
Alison Campbell runs Marble Moon Kidswear shop on Etsy. She learnt to sew at Sew In Brighton sewing school. We caught up with her to find out all about her business!
How and why did you first get interested in sewing?
As a child, I used to cross stitch with my mum and later, as a student, I wanted to customise my own clothes. I would buy fabric I loved from Birmingham Rag Market but I never managed to fully realise a garment as I was just improvising, although there were some interesting “no-sew” attempts! I bought myself a sewing machine when I was pregnant with my first daughter, and I managed to teach myself how to run up a baby blanket following You Tube tutorials but I always felt something was holding me back from really progressing. When I finally had the time and money to take proper sewing lessons with Kat that’s when things really took off!
We've been having a lot of fun this year, teaching students how to copy their favourite clothes in our popular Replicate Your Clothes workshop and in our weekly Stitch Classes. It's such a handy skill to be able to recreate a much loved garment!
Check out our gallery to see what students and teachers have been replicating so far this year...
Kat replicates her favourite Hennes vest top
Kat's vest top replicated!
Yael replicated her off-shoulder top in Laura's Stitch class on Thursday evenings
Romaine replicates her favourite vintage dress in Stitch Classes
Concentration! On the last workshop
View next Replicate Your Clothes workshops
Skirt all pinned down and ready to trace off...
Agy's orginal Coatigan....
...and her copy - half made so far but looking good!
Janet concentrating hard on copying her linen tunic...
..and checking the measurements match...
This was Janet's original tunic....
...and this is her nearly finished copy!
Richie replicating his Oxford bags in Stitch Classes
What an earth is this garment part?? It's a sleeve!
If you'd like to make a brand new version of a much loved item of clothing for yourself, we teach this skill in any Stitch Classes or on the Replicate Your Clothes regular workshops.
Find out more about our replicating clothes courses here
When Rachata Powell first came to learn to sew with us at Sew In Brighton she had no previous sewing experience. Fast forward a year later and she’s now running her own business making and selling her own clothes! We caught up with her to quiz her on what inspired her to start sewing, build her own business and how she’s getting on.
When & why did you learn to sew?
I was a complete beginner when I first started in April last year. I had an idea of selling some trousers inspired by the traditional clothing worn by villagers in Thailand, but, in hiring someone to make these I wouldn't make any profit. So I decided to learn how to sew so I could make them myself.
What was your inspiration to start up a clothing brand?
At first I wanted to try and see if I could sew, then I started having fun making various things from trousers and dresses, to bags and hats. The more things I made, the more inspired I got. So I thought it would be great to make my own brand of clothing and start selling them because I now I had made so many items, I had enough to fill a shelf.
Who makes the clothes you sell?
I still make all the clothes myself. My unique selling point is that everything is a "handmade product".
We interview our Overlocking and Alterations teacher, professional machinist Carrie White...
How did you get into sewing for a living, how long have you been doing it?
I've been sewing for about 15 years and doing it professionally for around 6 years. It took quite some time for me to realise I could do it for a living. I was working in an office and making things in my spare time, and at some point I figured out that I was happier sewing than I was at my job. I studied Costume Production at a theatre school in London and when I left I decided to go into the wedding dress industry. I contacted various bridal shops in my area, got some experience with them and have been making and altering dresses ever since.
What do you do in your sewing jobs? What sort of garment alterations do you do in your usual working week?
The main bulk of my work is altering dresses, all sorts of dresses! Cotton, chiffon, jersey, velvet, silk, I've altered them all. Every now and again I'll make a dress but I like the quick turn around with alterations. The most common alteration is taking up hems - ladies come in all different heights and prefer all different shoe heights too so about 75% of all long dresses will need shortening. The next most common alteration is lifting the shoulders, this can make such a difference to the fit of a dress but is not always the most obvious change to make.
How do you use overlockers in your job?
What do you do when your sewing machine breaks?
Should you be proactive or reactive in looking after one?
Where can you get a sewing machine serviced if something goes wrong with one?
These are questions that sewers are faced with whether you are beginner starting out, a recreational sewer or an experienced sewer with years of practice behind you. Using our friends at Bobbin Along, a servicing and repair shop in Worthing, we aim to give you an insight into the importance of maintaining a sewing machine whilst also highlighting which machines can be most trusted in terms of reliability.
With a love of sewing from an early age, Bobbin Along owner Katy has years of experience not only from working in the industry but tips and tricks passed down through two generations. When asked about her background in sewing and where she first developed her keenness she replied:
Have you come across Shoben tape yet?
This stripey black and white tape sticks well to fabric and is very narrow - I use it to design new necklines or bust seams on toiles or garments I want to alter - like this:
(this is Ralph Pink on Youtube designing seam on a bustier with Shoben tape)
Then you can mark these changes back to your pattern using a sharp spikey tracing wheel (and board underneath - a cutting mat or even just a piece of thick cardboard box will do).
You can buy Shoben tape online for £7.50 from Sew Essential (it will last you years unless you're making numerous corsets like Ralph above!) here
Buy your own tracing wheel online here
This week we've recieved some super cute swatches from The Fabric Shop, which has branches in Burgess Hill and Worthing. Jenni who is wearing the gold skirt in the attached pic has just completed our Fashion Design & Pattern Cutting course and bought all her fabrics from there - they were gorgeous.
It's a large shop with a huge range - I've attached my favourites here - cute rabbit print poly/linen £14.99 a metre, plus 2 gorgeous hard wearing cotton backed oil cloths at £12.99 a metre.
The Fabric Shop also sell Husqvana Viking sewing machines from £150, plus made to measure curtains, haberdashery and hand knitting paraphernalia!
Jenni's skirt made from a fab remnant from The Fabric Shop, Worthing
The Fabric Shop Ltd
The Show Rooms 55 Chapel Road Worthing BN11 1EF
The Fabric Shop Ltd
36 The Martlets Burgess Hill RH15 9NN
A question we’re often asked here at Sew in Brighton is ‘which kind of sewing machine should I by, and where can I buy it from?’
We caught up with Ian from one of favourite suppliers, Varney’s Sewing Machines over in Portslade. He gave us his hints and tips on finding the sewing machine of your dreams...
Are you all set for wearing your Christmas Jumper today, Friday 18th December?
We teamed up with ITV's charity event Text Santa to raise money for Save The Children, make some fantastic DIY christmas jumpers, and have an absolute blast last weekend - and here are the results. Participants brought a jumper or sweatshirt to customise, and we brought the tinsel, bobbles, ribbons, rosettes, felt, fabrics, and last but not least - inspiration!
Our students said that our teacher Jo Bunner was "very helpful and positive" and had "great ideas". We think they came up with some really fantastic jumpers to wear for Christmas Jumper Day!
Jo Bunner, of www.jogoodeimage.co.uk
With our upcoming Tailored Jacket making course in mind, here we interview Katie and Dorte at Dragonfly Fabrics in Sussex and our jacket course tutor Jo Bunner about the best choice for jacket fabrics
What's the easiest fabric for a novice jacket maker to use?
The easiest fabric to use would be a wool fabric, like the 100% Italian wool or the grey Italian check wool as these are firm. We are have a new range of herringbone tweed that would be suitable also. These fabrics are not too thick so they drape well and they are easy to sew with. Although pure wool fabric is more expensive, we think you will get more from your finished garment. The quality is important to think about, especially when taking the time to make something tailored, quality fabrics will make sewing easier and the jacket durable.
Everyone needs a fab pull on dress - I wear mine over jeans (which I also make btw, with minimal waistband bulk for just this purpose!).
We've run our stretch dress course quite a few times now and it's always gratifying to see my students enjoying creating multiple dresses after the course! Plus people have used the pattern to make tops too, and we can help adapt it into different styles if they want.
See images below of regular student (who started as absolute beginner not long ago!) Rebecca in her various incarnations of the dress.
I've a fab beige/black spot jersey I can't wait to get started with - and the butterfly one below is one I made for the original course but for some reason never quite got round to hemming, so thats a job for this week! The blue one is the original sample you may have seen on our wall at the Sewing Lounge. The fabric is from Fabric Land - most unusal, always worth a look to see what they have in store - otherwise Ditto fabrics on Kensington Gardens in Brighton (or online) usually have some great upmarket plain and printed jerseys you could use.
Make Your Own Stretch Dress in our weekly Stitch Classes
More info and booking here
Also check out my Pinterest board for inspiration on how to wear and which styles to make
The Great British Sewing Bee returns for an eight-part series presented by Claudia Winkleman. Ten of the country's best home sewers face three challenges to make or alter an item of clothing under intense time pressure. Each week, their creations are judged by Savile Row's Patrick Grant and sewing expert May Martin, until one of them is crowned Britain's best amateur sewer.
BBC 2 Tuesdays 8PM or Catch up on Iplayer:
The contestants are tested on three core fabrics: cotton, wool and silk.
The first episode tests the sewers on the three core fabrics in a dressmaker's cupboard: cotton, wool and silk. The surprise Pattern Challenge tasks the sewers with making a simple tunic top out of straightforward cotton. Some excel at producing the perfect top, some struggle to finish, and others cut corners - to their cost.
In the Alteration Challenge the sewers demonstrate their ability to transform a plain high street woollen skirt in just 90 minutes, creating mini skirts with frills, pencil skirts with peplums, and dungarees.
Finally, the sewers face the toughest of core fabrics when asked to fit a made-to-measure silk nightgown for a model.
The contestants are tested on their ability to match and combine patterned fabric.
Claudia Winkleman welcomes the nine home sewers back to the sewing room to face three more challenges. This episode tests their ability to match and combine patterned fabric. First the judges, Savile Row's Patrick Grant and sewing expert May Martin, surprise the sewers with a pattern for a pleated skirt. The catch is that they must match the pattern of the fabric across those pleats without changing the size of the skirt, which catches a few of the sewers out.
They must show their ingenuity by combining two patterned men's shirts into one garment - the results range from a little sailor dress to a boob tube.
Finally, they make made-to-measure men's patterned pyjamas which must both match across the seams and fit their male model perfectly.
The contestants face the most fitted made to measure challenge yet.
Claudia Winkleman hosts The Great British Sewing Bee as the eight amateur sewers prepare to do battle again in three challenges designed to test their ability to handle stretchy fabric.
The judges - Savile Row's Patrick Grant and sewing expert May Martin - first give them a surprise pattern for a simple pair of leggings with resulting snug and saggy bottoms.
Next the sewers are free to do whatever they like to turn an oversized t-shirt into a completely different garment - and they come up with some ingenious alterations, from a toddler's leotard to an asymmetric mini dress.
Finally, they face the most fitted made to measure challenge yet.
Inspired to get sewing yourself?
Come to our weekly Stitch Classes in Brighton & Hove. We even use the same Janome sewing machines as used in the programme!
Discover C&H Fabrics
Find a wealth of dressmaking fabrics – cool cotton, linens, wools, sumptuous silks, jerseys, fleece, linings – and new designs arriving all the time.
And especially for the quilter – patchwork cottons, fat quarters and jelly rolls and of course wadding and all the tools and gadgets quilters need.
Toymakers can have fun with craft fur, felt, stuffing and all the different toy parts, even ‘squeeks’!
And there’s mannequins, sewing machines and a huge haberdashery.
It’s an absolute paradise!
Interview With C&H Fabrics, Western Rd, Brighton
C & H Fabrics Ltd was started on 1st April 1933 by C.W. Hamblin and Mr H. Closs,and has now grown into a huge store over several floors with a great selection of fabrics, wools, haberdashery products and many other household and gifts items.
We had the fantastic opportunity to interview Diana Hing and James Hamblin, the manager and Personnel of the store, to learn more about the store and the products it sells.
What is the main audience of your business?
Up to 5 years ago the main audience was aged 45 and over and predominantly female, but in the last few years this has lowered to age 35 and over. Also many more young people has been buying products for school projects,which is encouraged by the10% discount to products for school work.
What do you think are the popular sewing products bought?
On the whole the product sales are very even, although C&H do sells huge numbers of scissors, people really appreciate good fabric scissors. The most popular editions are the Fiskars scissors, these are very good quality and last up to 10years before needing to be replaced. They also sell a lot of velcro, Wundaweb, and fabric dyes. The increased sales in fabric dyes has been quite recent, and is probably related the rise in young people buying from the store, and also the recent tie dye trends. A greater number of dyes are sold in the Brighton store than other stores across the country, which Diana believes is due to the greater interest in crafts in Brighton, as well as the outlook of older people here is in general younger and funkier.
What are the different types of fabrics that you sell?
Interestingly the customers often follow the advice and ideas of the staff, as opposed to having fixed ideas themselves. They also find that wool is very popular, which may be as it is a natural fabric and also very easy to work with, as therefore popular with less experienced stitchers. They have also seen a rise in crafts and with this a shift towards the use of fabrics for craft projects as opposed to dress making. People coming to C&H expect quality and something different rather than simply cheap and cheerful.
Personally what have you sewn or made that you have been most proud of?
James, the area manager of C&H, isn't a regular crafter and stitcher, but when training for his position he knitted a scarf with the help of other members of staff in the store. Whereas Diana sews a lot, creating a variety of clothing and pieces for the home. Her favourite creation was the silk curtains and matching silk roman blinds she made for own home, and feels very proud when seeing them within her home. She also makes a lot of clothing, particularly skirts, which she makes from scratch without any pattern!
Sewing, knitting and crafts are very fashionable hobbies now, what do you think has sparked this?
Crafts and sewing became fashionable when celebrities like julia robertsand gwyneth paltrow started knitting 6 years ago. Kirsty Allsopp has also been a massive influence, especially following her an episode of 'Kirstys Homemade Home' in which she made pom poms, C&H sold out of pom pom kits. Also Gok Wan brought embellishing into fashion, helping to set trends, and also increase the sales of materials to embellish clothes from home. Usually as well as materials for dress making, C&H also sells a lot of fabric and wool for creating dog beds and coats, which mimics the trend of pet fashions and clothing.
Do you think that the Great British Sewing Bee has had a big major affect on the sales of sewing and craft materials? And how?
The Great British Sewing Bee has been a great influence on sales of fabrics and dress making materials. People nowadays want to be different and individual, especially with the increase in mass produced cheap fast fashion.
How do you think that young people could become more excited about sewing and crafts?
Diana believes that by getting young children to touch and feel fabrics, such as angora and velvet, they would become more interested in fabrics, craft and sewing from an early age. Also teaching people more about the background of fabrics and the technical aspects, for instance that silk draws up more colour, thereby looking more vibrant. We also need to raise awareness that young people can create something and get a result they are pleased with , they just need to go for it! People are put off be crafts and sewing as they see it as complicated, but Diana says people ought to “just get a lovely fabric and go for it!”.